Money, size and military might don't seem to have an effect on cultural influence. While the United States has four times more purchasing power, spends way more of its GDP on defense and has more than double the population, Japan has Americans hooked on being Japanese. They had us at Speed Racer and the $$$-range sushi—and it's not even cooked?

There's really no denying it. Ask Orange County native Gwen Stefani. Her Harajuku girls (who, by the way, weren't all born in Japan and certainly aren't from Harajuku) don't even talk, and they get more press coverage than most of our politicians. Worst thing to happen to Asian women since “Me love you long time.”

Yes, Toyota will continue to dominate the automobile business that Henry Ford created, and all the kids will be either hooked on Power Rangers, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Naruto, or whatever else comes along.

So, hey, the way I figure it, the least we can do is learn about Japanese culture from the right people and not fall prey to misconceptions. Join East Asian art and cultural specialist Meher McArthur in learning about the tradition, types and best methods of enjoying Japanese sake. I doubt sake bombs will be covered in class—there might be a reason why the only people sake-bombing in sushi joints are college kids.

An Introduction to Japanese Sake at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 567-3679. Thurs., Sept. 27, 7-8 p.m. $22-25. Call for reservations. Space is limited. Prepayment required.

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